The most overlooked aspect of the LeBron James’ GOAT argument

Throughout LeBron’s career, he was thrived in spite of never having a coach on his level of greatness. Bill had Red, Tim had Pop, Kareem and Magic had Pat, and Kobe and Michael had Phil. For every all-time great player, there’s an all-time great coach to pair with them.


Despite LeBron never having an all-time great coach, he has delivered all-time great numbers since he was drafted at 18. The kid who became the King did it without the help of an all-time great coach, a true testament to his individual greatness.

LeBron’s coaching tree

Erik Spoelstra is a great coach but far from all-time great. Spoelstra deserves the number one spot without question atop the best coaches to have coached LeBron. I could go into detail about how LeBron’s PER was the highest of his career under Spoelstra and lay out all the other stats that show Spoelstra maximized LeBron’s production. However, I think it’s general consensus that Spoelstra is the best coach to have linked up with LeBron.

Of the remaining six candidates, the only coach worthy of comparing to Spoelstra is Mike Brown. Brown deservingly an honorable mention. LeBron flourished under Brown but his teams during that stretch were never able to reach the NBA Finals. General roster flaws and a strong Eastern Conference created a barrier that LeBron at that time couldn’t cross.

After Brown, the quality of coaches takes a nosedive. Tyronn Lue was the acting head coach during the Cavs most recent three finals runs. It’s too early to tell whether or not Lue was a head coach who lucked lucked into coaching the best basketball player of this generation or he actually was a contributing factor.

Photographed by Drew Conover

With Lue’s first head coaching gig coming in Cleveland, he has no real track record to prove the latter.

Regardless of what will become of Lue’s career, it is safe to say a first time head coach was not on the same level of greatness as LeBron.

The same goes for LeBron’s new head coach in Los Angeles, Luke Walton. Walton was taken in the same draft as LeBron yet is expected to be able to coach him? We don’t know how their time together will pan out, but again the trend continues. LeBron plays for a team that has failed to pair him with the caliber of coach he deserves.

The argument

Unfortunately, with LeBron entering into his 16th season, the odds that he will link up with a Popovich-esque coach are slim. We probably will never see LeBron truly at his full potential, playing alongside a basketball mind as advanced as his own.

LeBron’s lack of elite coaching is an undeniable fact of his career. It’s time to look at it for what it is, one of the best arguments that can be made in favor of LeBron being the best of all-time.

Who’s to say Jordan becomes Jordan with Paul Silas as his head coach coming out of North Carolina? Or Kobe becomes Kobe without Phil? The hypothetical questions go on forever.

No matter what LeBron accomplishes the rest of the way, fans of previous decades will always argue for their guy. Whether it be Bill, Michael, or Kobe, the argument will live on forever.

One thing that can’t be argued is that he has done more with less his whole career. Roster deficiencies, front office disagreements, and above average coaching at best aside, LeBron has done nothing but succeed.

There is no truer testament to greatness than thriving when the odds are stacked against you. LeBron’s been thriving as the smartest basketball mind on the court since he was 18 and after 16 years in the league he STILL hasn’t found a coach on his level. His lack of an all-time great coaching partner is undeniably a check in the win column for LeBron’s GOAT debate. If he’s accomplished three championships, three NBA Finals MVP’s, and four regular season MVP’s, without a Phil, imagine what he could have done with one.

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